The biggest threat to Kyren Williams taking the throne as an elite running back is his complicated injury history, which once again reared its ugly in the Rams’ wildcard loss to the Detroit Lions. Williams reportedly broke his hand in the playoff loss to the Lions and had surgery this week to repair his injury.
Williams became the first player in modern NFL history to finish in the top three in rushing yards despite missing five games. It’s an impressive feat that speaks to the dynamism of the running back in his second year for the Los Angeles Rams.
The sky is truly the limit for Williams heading into 2024. His production while healthy rivaled even the most productive back in football, Christian McCaffrey. It’s even possible that Williams could usurp McCaffrey for the top running back ranking in fantasy football—and generally the top RB gets selected first overall in fantasy drafts.
Unfortunately health has been the exception and not the norm for Williams during his time in the NFL, and his injury history is growing into quite the list.
Those injuries go all the way back to organized team activities ahead of his rookie season in 2022. Williams broke his foot in practice and then missed most of training camp. He worked his way back to be active on special teams in the Rams’ season opener against the Buffalo Bills, but he suffered an ankle injury on the initial kickoff.
We didn’t see Williams again until Week 10 2022 against the Arizona Cardinals. He started to split time with Cam Akers over the next three weeks, but starting in Week 13 against the Seattle Seahawks Akers began to dominate the share of the backfield.
But Williams made Akers obsolete in the 2023 season opener against the Seahawks as he surprisingly started the game and then Akers was a healthy inactive before being traded to the Minnesota Vikings. LA’s running game reached new heights in Week 4 when Williams dominated the Indianapolis Colts and accumulated 127 total yards and two touchdowns. He maintained he production through the first game against the Arizona Cardinals before injuring his ankle. This injury sidelined him for another four games.
The Rams’ rushing production upon Williams’ return is something to marvel at, and the second-year back finished the year with 1,144 rushing yards and second-team All Pro honors. Over the last six regular season games Los Angeles won five games with a resurgent offense headlined by Williams, a mildly healthy Cooper Kupp, dynamic rookie Puka Nacua, and quarterback Matthew Stafford. This stretch was really the first point where these players were all healthy and on the field at the same time. The Rams were one of the hottest teams in the NFC heading into the playoffs.
But as injuries limited the Rams offense early in the season, Williams going down in the second half of the wildcard game against Detroit also proved detrimental to the group’s effectiveness. Rivers was fine in replacement of Williams, but LA took a step backwards in pass protection. The Rams finished with only 68 rushing yards against the Lions and struggled offensively over the second half while trailing.
this Kyren Williams rep is every bit as sick as I expected. the RB's defender drops and he's immediately redirecting to knock the center off his man so he can go try to get a piece of the blitzing DB. pic.twitter.com/i4NSbXdXBK— Mike Golic Jr (@mikegolicjr) January 16, 2024
Rams fans should be excited about Williams’ prospects ahead of the 2024 season, but it’s also important to consider the back’s lengthy (and growing) injury history. Can Los Angeles depend on Williams as a true lead back next year, or is it important to supplement him and rotate multiple backs?
It’s clear that Williams is pivotal piece of the Rams offense, and a clean bill of health would be a big benefit to Los Angeles into next season.